30 March 2015

Review: POIROT and me, David Suchet

  • published by Headline, 2013
  • co-author Geoffrey Wansell
  • ISBN 978-0-7553-6422-0
  • 373 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

David Suchet shares his many memories of creating this iconic television series and reflects on what the detective has meant to him over the years

In the summer of 2013 David Suchet filmed his final scenes as Hercule Poirot. After 24 years in the role, he played the character in every story that Agatha Christie wrote about him (bar one, deemed unfilmable) and he bid adieu to a role and a character that changed his life. Here he tells the story of how he secured the part, with the blessing of Agatha Christie's daughter, and set himself the task of presenting the most authentic Poirot that had ever been filmed. David Suchet is uniquely placed to offer the ultimate companion to one of the world's longest running television series. Peppered with anecdotes about filming, including many tales of the guest stars who have appeared over the years, the book is essential reading for Poirot fans all over the world.

My take

David Suchet takes the reader through twenty five years of character acting, when he and Poirot became one: 70 television films, fulfilling his dream of presenting the entire canon of Agatha Christie's Poirot stories. As he says, over half his adult life has focussed on the authentic portrayal of Poirot.

He describes how he came to be Poirot and then the televised stories in the order in which each series was produced. As we know, they weren't filmed in the order in which they were written, and some, Suchet admits, were rather "thin" because the underlying story was a bit thin, and some were not as true to the original written story as others. But some were splendid and an extraordinary amount of money was invested in their production.

It is a fascinating read. Suchet sees himself as charged with the need to present Poirot as Agatha Christie saw him. He talks about what attracts people to Poirot, why the various films have had such wide appeal.

But don't expect him to show up in any "new" Poirot story. He has vowed to never appear in any Poirot story that Dame Agatha didn't write. As far as he is concerned his portrayal of Poirot has finished.
    There will never be another series with me playing Poirot..... a part of me has died with him.
My rating: 4.5

Review: RUNAWAY, Peter May - audio book

  • Written by: Peter May
  • Narrated by: Peter Forbes
  • Length: 10 hrs and 34 mins 
  • print published 2015
  • Unabridged Audiobook
Synopsis (Audible)

In 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year's end three returned, and returned damaged. In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.

Runaway is a crime novel covering fifty years of friendships solidified and severed, dreams shared and shattered and passions lit and extinguished; set against the backdrop of two unique and contrasting cities at two unique and contrasting periods of recent history.

My Take

The premise of this story is simple: 50 years ago five teenage friends took their band from Glasgow to London, basically running away from home. Months later three of them returned home, their dreams shattered. And now one of them, dying, insists that the truth of what happened then has to be revealed. Things have to be put right.

This story is filled with both poignant and humorous episodes as the three men, and a grandson, help one of them escape from a nursing home, steal a car, and join a pensioners outing, all in an effort to get to London before one of them dies.

Peter Forbes' narration was superb, and the story was excellent.

Peter May is a writer to follow!

My rating: 4.8

I've also reviewed
THE RUNNER
VIRTUALLY DEAD
FREEZE FRAME
4.7, THE BLACKHOUSE
5.0, THE LEWIS MAN
4.5, EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE
5.0, ENTRY ISLAND

29 March 2015

3,000 published posts

I began this blog on 2 Jan 2008, just over 7 years ago, with the intent of publishing my reviews of crime fiction that I've read.

Just recently the 950th book review was published, and now we are marking another milestone.

I am posting much less than I used to, and now most posts are book reviews. Back in the early days I often posted twice, and only one post in 5 was a book review.

However I'm still a crime fiction addict!

Thank you for visiting, and for stimulating me with your comments.

Review:SINS OF THE FATHER, Graham Hurley

 Synopsis ( Audible)

A rich old man, Rupert Moncrieff, is beaten to death in the silence of his West Country waterside mansion, his head hooded and his throat cut. His extended family are still living beneath his roof, each with their own room, their own story, their own ghosts, and their own motives for murder.

And in this world of darkness and dysfunction are the artefacts and memories of colonial atrocities that are returning to haunt them all.

At the heart of the murder investigation is DS Jimmy Suttle who, along with his estranged journalist wife Lizzie, is fighting his own demons after the abduction and death of their young daughter, Grace.

But who killed Rupert Moncrieff? And what secrets is the house holding onto that could unravel this whole investigation? The enquiry takes Suttle to Africa and beyond as he slowly begins to understand the damage that human beings can inflict upon one another. Not simply on the battlefield. Not simply in the torture camps in the Kenyan bush. But much, much closer to home.

My Take

Although I was convinced it was not so, my records tell me that this is the first novel by Graham Hurley that I have reviewed in this history of this blog. 

The structure is similar to what we have seen in recent years in British crime fiction: two independent stories connected by a common factor, in this case a married couple, and then threading their way through the manuscript, more or less in step. Almost, in this case, two novels in one.

The murder investigation, undertaken by the team that DS Jimmy Suttle is part of, explores how British colonial administrators treated the local inhabitants, in this case in Kenya, whom they regarded as racially inferior. In fact Suttle and his boss go out to Africa to work out whether a local who recently visited England could be responsible for the gruesome murder, or whether the answer is much closer to home. Meanwhile Suttle's wife Lizzie is trying to make some sense of the death of their four year old daughter Grace. She has been offered a book contract to write about the impact on their lives. Should she take it?

As with novels with similar structure the novel's narrative hops almost without warning from one story to another, making sure the reader stays alert.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Graham Hurley is an award-winning TV documentary maker who now writes full time. He has now published 25 novels. He has lived in Portsmouth for over 20 years. He is married and has grown-up children.

The Jimmy Suttle series
1. Western Approaches (2012)
2. Touching Distance (2013)
3. Sins of the Father (2014)

26 March 2015

Review: ABATTOIR BLUES, Peter Robinson

  • first published in the UK 2014, Hodder & Stoughton
  • #22 in the Alan Banks series
  • ISBN 978-1-444-70496-4
  • 367 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Taking the title from the Nick Cave album, this sophisticated thriller, featuring DCI Alan Banks, follows the success of No.1 best-seller Children of the Revolution, which shot to the top of the UK charts earlier this year.

When two boys vanish under mysterious circumstances, the local community is filled with unease. Then a bloodstain is discovered in a disused World War Two hangar nearby, and a caravan belonging to one of the youths is burned to the ground. Things quickly become much more sinister.

Assigned to the case, DCI Banks and his team are baffled by the mystery laid out before them. But when a motor accident throws up a gruesome discovery, the investigation spins into a higher gear – in another direction. As Banks and his team struggle desperately to find the missing boy who holds the key to the puzzle, they find themselves in a race against time where it’s their turn to become the prey…

My Take

The blurb (above) promoting this novel, tells you almost as much as the reader needs to be told. The setting is North Yorkshire and Terry Gilchrist, recently discharged from the army is walking his dog. Peaches disappears inside an old hanger and Gilchrist recognises what Peaches has found as blood. Meanwhile Annie Cabot is investigating the theft of a tractor and Alan Banks is returning from holidays.

Crime scene investigators affirm that what Peaches found is human blood and Banks takes over the investigation.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel was the exploration of the roles played by the various members of Banks' team, and particularly the part played by DS Winsome Jackman. And I enjoyed watching from the sidelines as the various plot threads converged.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also reviewed
FRIEND OF THE DEVIL (2007)
4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS (2008)
4.6, BAD BOY (2010)
4.9. BEFORE THE POISON
4.7, WATCHING THE DARK (2013)
4.3, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION 

22 March 2015

Review: DEAD RECKONING, Michael W. Smart

  • File Size: 914 KB
  • Print Length: 342 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IY2U966
  • source: review copy from author 
  • #1 in the Bequia mystery series.
Synopsis (Amazon)

MYSTERY AND ROMANCE SET IN THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS OF ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES.

Gage didn't have friends. He'd led an emotionally isolated life, avoiding personal attachments, a mantra for survival. And the last thing he needed was disruption and exposure of the quiet retirement he'd settled into on Bequia, living aboard his schooner Wherever. He'd buried his past. Forged a new life.

And in doing so broke his cardinal rule, he'd formed attachments. A burgeoning romantic relationship with the island's police Superintendent Jolene Johanssen, whose love awakens dormant emotions and reconnects him to the world. A relationship he's unsure he's emotionally equipped to handle. And a close friendship with the discerning Commissioner of Police Mike Daniels, who perceives more regarding Gage's past than Gage is comfortable with. And who lies in a coma, fighting for his life.

In pursuing his friend's shooter Gage becomes embroiled in the vicious world of narco traffickers, money laundering, and a possible nemesis from his past, threatening to upend his new life, resurrect his inner demons, and put the people he's come to care about in the cross-hairs.

My take

At first there are two mysteries to solve: the attempted assassination of the Commissioner of Police, and the disappearance of a tourist, Natalie Holmes. Nicholas Gage feels that the two may be connected although he has no proof.

Mike Daniels' condition is critical, far more serious than the medical facilities on the island of Becquia can cope with. So Gage calls in some favors to get Daniels airlifted urgently to Miami. But that very act exposes Gage to threat, to exposure of what he retired from before he came to Becquia. And it exposes his friends to real danger.

On his return to the island Gage realises that he is being watched, and he sets up his own surveillance systems to protect his friends and loved ones, particularly his lover police Superintendent Jolene Johanssen.

Slowly bits of what Gage is hiding are revealed. The story is action packed, set against the beguiling waters of the Caribbean. There is a strong sense of place, a setting at once enchanting but also a cover to lethal activities including drug running.

My rating: 3.6

16 March 2015

Review: THE CARTER OF LA PROVIDENCE, Georges Simenon

  • File Size: 406 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (February 6, 2014)
    Originally published 1931
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141393467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141393469
  • ASIN: B00GPBQTBC
  • #4 in the Maigret series 
  • Translated by David Coward
  • Also published as LOCK 14
Synopsis (Amazon)

What was the woman doing here? In a stable, wearing pearl earrings, her stylish bracelet and white buckskin shoes! She must have been alive when she got there because the crime had been committed after ten in the evening.

But how? And why? And no one had heard a thing! She had not screamed. The two carters had not woken up.

Inspector Maigret is standing in the pouring rain by a canal. A well-dressed woman, Mary Lampson, has been found strangled in a stable nearby. Why did her glamorous, hedonistic life come to such a brutal end here? Surely her taciturn husband Sir Walter knows - or maybe the answers lie with the crew of the barge La Providence.

My Take

This novel was one of a number that Simenon wrote after spending 6 months on French canals in 1928.
In the setting he captures a life style now long gone, when the canal boats and barges played an important role in transporting goods to the major ports in France.

It also captures the rural isolation of many of the towns that the canals connected: the first murder scene is along a tow path, several kilometres from the nearest major town. Maigret has to walk there, and then manages to acquire a bicycle which he uses to travel up to 70 kilometres a day. Most of the boats are horsedrawn, with the horses stabled on the boats themselves. The days are long, beginning well before dawn, and finishing only at sunset. At one lock there are more than 60 barges waiting to go through. There's a glimpse too of the future, with motorised pleasure boats, taking preference over working boats at the locks.

The murderer in this story was convicted nearly thirty years before, of the murder of his aunt, and paid the penalty with transportation to French Guiana. There he shook off his former identity, and returned to France to a new life as a labourer. A chance meeting at a junction of canals leads to another murder. Maigret's intuition puts scattered bits of evidence together.

My rating: 4.3

I've also reviewed
4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD
4.5, MAIGRET & THE HEADLESS CORPSE
4.3, PIETR THE LATVIAN
THE LATE MONSIEUR GALLET
4.4, THE RULES OF THE GAME
4.2, THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE TRAINS GO BY

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